Take inspiration from those around you. Their stories. Their uniqueness. Their creative journey. They can be children, they can be strangers, they can be absolutely anyone.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their lives. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mara Girone.
Mara Girone, originally from Italy is a passionate traveler and a dreamer, advocate for feminism. Mara is an artist, specialising in hand-embroidery, a podcast host and a writer. Mara has lived and worked across the globe from Italy to Mexico, Portugal to Greece and London and is inspired by her experiences around the world and by the people she has met and their stories.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I always, always thought that I was going to be an artist and a writer. As young as eight years old, I was already writing, and trying any art or craft around. I was a very creative child.
I knew I wanted to own my own business as well, which is unusual. As children, we don’t have filters, we already know what our dreams are. It’s later in life that we can realize those dreams, because in the middle, society expects that we study, follow academia, and get a ‘real job’ — this is especially true for the creative field.
From a very young age, I wanted to travel, though the idea chafed against my upbringing. I wrote stories about going to California, which was seen as causing a problem. Seen as a ‘rebel’ when young, frequently challenged the restrictions that were placed on me by the very traditional culture. I wanted to own a business and wanted to travel.
In my country, you can dream and dream about your future life, then you get to uni and realize everything you hoped for won’t happen.
Studied Languages & Literature at university — this offered me my escape. Dad covered the costs of uni where I studied Spanish and English.
After leaving university, I took lots of different jobs, none of which fulfilled me — I worked in a library and in a stationary shop. I also studied to be a teacher to please my father, but chose not to progress it as a career.
I first left Marano at the age of 22, after working for two years to earn the cost of my travels. ‘Rebelling’ further, I traveled alone to the UK; to Hastings and then London. From then, I went to Spain on a student grant.
I worked as a PA to the Director of a flooring company in Naples, still living with my parents, and going through a difficult relationship when I hit 30, and realized I was wasting her life. I felt “unsatisfied in everything, work, life, love”, and hit rock bottom.
I felt like I was living in a cage, and had no future. So I bought a ticket to London, and left. I was 30, and my life had finally started.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have just one “Life Lesson Quote” that is my favorite. I take my inspiration and life lessons from every phase of my life.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Firstly I have learned the strength to never give up, secondly I know to have the attitude to face life with a smile, and I have the capacity to dream wild, and to not be afraid of giving it my all.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
In 2006, my husband Mark and I moved to Mexico, which is where I established a magazine publishing house (Editoriale VMV). I will forever describe it as my “first baby”. I was editor-in-chief as well as a lead writer. Our first child, Maya, was born in Mexico in 2009. Shortly after, Mark’s job took our young family to Portugal, which posed a challenge for myself. I continued with my publishing house for another 18 months, but the 12-hour days, lack of family support for childcare, the distance and time zones became insurmountable, and the publishing house was eventually closed (2011).
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I describe 2011 as a real struggle. I wasn’t enjoying my young daughter, the dream job had become just a job, I hadn’t settled in Portugal, and was risking serious burnout. And so, In order to overcome these feelings, I returned to my creative roots. I enrolled in a variety of courses — drawing, painting, millinery, sewing — and my daughter went to nursery. I learned Portuguese, and I was finally becoming settled in Portugal and content in my role. Being 100% Mum and wife made me lose my identity. Being able to create something again, to make, gave me it back.
By the end of 2013, after 4.5 years in Portugal, we moved again, this time to Greece. I was pregnant with her second child, and Michael was born. Again, this transition proved difficult for me. I had a new baby and a 5-year-old, I was exhausted, and felt very low. The lack of continuity in my life had taken its toll. Coaching was starting to grow in popularity in Europe, and so I took on a coach to help me work through these challenges. I went back to my love for art again, and this time, started in hand embroidery — something I hadn’t done since the age of eight.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
Motherhood was a challenge for me due to me feeling as though I lost my identity however I found that being creative gave me a purpose. Reconnecting with my creative side once more helped me to realise that I needed to use it in my everyday life, and I began planning to launch another business. Greece, with its red tape and complicated admin was not the place to do so, and it was when we moved back to London in 2017 that it became a real possibility. At this point, the children were eight and three years old, and as a family we wanted to be around Mark’s parents and find somewhere to settle until the children went to university.
I spent 2017 turning her hand to millinery and handbag making, and it was this foray into the fashion world that eventually led to the birth of Simple Sophistication in 2018.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I did not discover a totally new skill set, however, I awoke one that hadn’t been used for a while, one that was stifled. I felt alive again for the first time in a very long time.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
My new initiative was born from a skill, hand embroidery, that helped me navigate a difficult time in my life. From a form of meditation it turned into a profitable adventure. I have been investing a lot of energy and money in it because I have a vision that is becoming closer and closer at every step I give.
If I think back only a couple of years I can hardly recognize my initial business and the woman who started it. I have grown enormously and I have achieved many of what were only dreams.
I remember, when working with a coach and ‘dreaming wild’, some of my targets seemed impossible and now they are reality.
My social medias are growing organically, my video show and podcast came to life and is growing, I had the opportunity to be in John Lewis with my pieces, and more adventures are planned for this year.
From once wearing all the possible hats you have in a business, now I am lucky to delegate work to team members so I can focus on my art and creation.
I have come far on my journey but I have further to go in order to be where I wish to be, learn what I want to learn and inspire as well as be inspired by people who I am still to meet.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is no one person but many. I am inspired by and grateful to all people. Their stories. Their uniqueness. Their creative journey. They can be children, they can be random strangers I meet in the street and they can be amazing artists, writers, entrepreneurs and these people enable me to continue my journey throughout my life and business.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I struggled with my complete loss of identity and self belief each time I became a mother.
However, those challenges brought me back to my roots and love for my hand embroidery. At the time it was a form of meditation that helped me to navigate the not always calm water of motherhood, of moving several times to different countries, cultures and traditions. I decided to take all of my experiences around the world, my passion for the beauty of different cultures, my wish to support women and their mindset, and convey them in what I do today. I overcame the challenge of being lost and have created a thriving business that empowers women in the way I hoped it to.
I feel that my greatest success has been the ability to believe in myself again because I found renewed energy to not only chase my dreams, but also to grab them and make them come true.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
My support system is my husband and our family. Without Mark’s constant support I wouldn’t have been able to open my publishing house or be where I am since opening Simple Sophistication.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Take inspiration from those around you. Their stories. Their uniqueness. Their creative journey. They can be children, they can be strangers, they can be absolutely anyone.
- Do what you enjoy and enjoy it to the fullest.
- Learn. Do not be afraid to broaden your horizons and knowledge. An informed person is a successful person therefore gain that knowledge and use it to your advantage.
- Never give up! Have the attitude to face life with a smile, the capacity to dream wild, and to not be afraid of giving your all.
- Probably the most important one: Believe in yourself!!! You can do this!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!